You got yourself a site that has a national presence and is doing quite well in SERPs, but one fine day you realize that you want to optimize it for local search. You want your site to be found by a local target audience, one that belongs to particular city/town/neighborhood. What are you going to do about it? Will you make wholesale changes to the site, making it part national part local? Or do you start taking sure footed SEO steps to not just optimize your site for local search but ensure that it figures right at the top of the search rankings.
Out of the all the roads that you could take to reach your destination, the last sounds the best; let’s take a look at seven pointers that are part and parcel of any local SEO driven strategy.
1. Start with the Basics – Keyword Research
Onsite optimization is a prerequisite for ranking in local search, but you must first know the keywords that you want to use. The idea here is to target industry specific terms and geo specific terms.
So, if you are a software services provider that wants to target New York, your keywords research must include both, your domain centric keywords and New York.
By getting an idea of the number times keywords are searched in a month, you will get the handle on the keywords that you must target. In local search, it’s a good idea to focus on long tail keywords; these are more niche and locations specific and they also give you a better opportunity to rank.
2. Onsite Optimization
Once you have your keywords locked in, get started on website optimization focused on local search; after all, you need to tell the search engine which location you are targeting.
Optimize your SEO title tags with the local keywords that you researched, it needs to be a mix of your primary keywords and location based keywords as well; and mind you all this within the 65 character limit.
Your optimized Meta description has scope for some more information as compared to your locally optimized Title Tags. So, make those 155 characters count; add primary and local keywords, location specific business information and your phone number.
3. Using local online directories
This is a critical element of offsite optimization. Getting listed on local directories helps you build citations, which play a big role in ranking algorithms for local search. A citation is a mention. It is your brand name, business address, contact details and any other information that gives the listing the most value. What’s more, it’s important that this information is the same across all directories, word for word and format for format.
Listing your domain on local directories helps you build high quality links and citations, which in turn helps improve your visibility. But using just any local online directory won’t do, your focus must be on authoritative directories, the kind that don’t just accept any listing, but only accept listings that follow best practices. Some well-respected figures in this niche include Google Places, Yelp, Bing Local, Merchant Circle, and Yellow Pages.
4. Landing Page for each location that you want to target
If you want your national presence to be more localized, you shouldn’t go about creating a new website. Why not create a landing page or a subdomain for every location that you want to target. So, it could be something like newyork.xyz.com. Of course, this is only useful if you want to rank for multiple cities.
A local landing page for say New York, another one for Boston, and yet another for say Houston will help you improve organic rankings and there is a good chance that Google Maps will pick it up as well. Follow the best practices of optimizing your different landing pages like optimizing title tags, giving full business address; local phone numbers etc. will give a fillip to your SEO ranking efforts.
5. Adding a location wise directory structure
One of the better ways of ranking in local search is designing the right kind of URL architecture; especially if you are targeting a variety of locations/cities across the United States. The idea is to create a directory structure that can penetrate local search best, for the cities that you want to target.
What you need here is a deeply nested site that has a structure by state/location/city/different-pages. A hierarchal structure is a necessity here, and you need to identify the term that will give a signal to local search results. It’s only with a location specific directory structure that you can establish immediate relevancy at the city level, which in turn allows your site to build the authority it needs.
6. Google Places
I have made a mention Google Places while talking about local directory listings, but this guy warrants a pointer of his own. After all, isn’t your ultimate goal, to show up right at top of the organic search results in Google, right where everybody can see you?
So, get started on claiming your business on Google Places, by creating your profile. Fill up everything that it asks you to and be sure to fill in only the most complete information. So, if you don’t have videos to link, create videos about your business, have them up on YouTube and then provide the link.
Once you submit, you will need to verify your business with either phone (this happens immediately), or through a postcard sent to your business address (takes 2-3 weeks). Once you go live, encourage reviews from customers who have used your services. Every positive review will have a bearing on your local search rank.
7. Encouraging Local Reviews
You need to up the positive rating of your business on local search, and this is only possible through positive reviews. A customer needs to be encouraged to review your services and this can be done by adopting plenty of nifty little tactics. Of course, the first step of getting a positive review is offering the best services, otherwise nobody is going to leave any reviews for you, and if at all you will get a review, it will be a bad one.
But let’s be optimistic and consider that you haven’t put a step wrong in offering your services, so how do you go about encouraging good reviews:
- Reviews via Emails: Encourage your customers to send in a review via email; do this by emailing them after you have provided your services to them, and ask them to rate their experience of working with you, by giving them a link to your business listing.
- Ask: Sometimes it just makes better sense to ask your customer upfront to give you a positive review on a business listing. Most customers, if they are a happy lot, are going to oblige.
- Buttons/Badges: Add links to your business listing on your website, and let your customers know they can rate your business on these sites.
Something else that you need to do, is monitor all the reviews that are coming in, so if there is a bad review that has come your way, you can quickly respond to it; at times this response will satisfy unsatisfied customers, helping you earn some brownie points.
Local SEO is all about focusing attention on the specifics of your niche and location. You will need to keep reading and keep learning on the various ways of winning the top place in local search. You can take a look at 9 steps to win your online space, a post that gives you more information about local SEO and how to tackle it.
There is some tough competition on local search, but there are plenty of ways to go one up over them. You live and learn. All the best!
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Pratik Dholakiya is a Lead SEO Strategist at E2M Solutions, a full service internet marketing company specializing in ethical and advanced SEO services. Pratik has analyzed all the recent Google search algorithm updates very closely and seen success in defining and implementing SEO strategy that works in the current era to see sustainable results that stay last longer and produce high ROI.